Illinois capital bill secures $21 billion for transportation

| 7/14/2009

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Monday, July 13, a $31 billion capital bill that routes two-thirds of the money to transportation projects.

The state’s first construction spending plan in more than a decade is expected to create thousands of jobs and to help rebuild the state’s crumbling infrastructure. The work will be paid for through new and higher taxes and fees and a vast expansion of legalized gambling.

Quinn said the massive funding bill will allow the state to keep up with demand for new or rebuilt highways, bridges, schools and public transportation systems. He also said it will create and retain more than 439,000 jobs during the next six years.

The bill allots $14.3 billion for roads and bridges through 2015, while another $7 billion is pegged for other transportation projects such as high-speed rail and Chicago-area transit. Education is slated to receive $5.1 billion.

Of the amount dedicated to roads and bridges, nearly $10 billion will be used for repairs while $4 billion will be spent on new construction. Local projects – work done by county road departments and other agencies – will get $500 million.

Illinois will use bonds to pay for the public works program. In effect, the state will borrow money and repay it over the next two or three decades. Revenue to repay the debt will be created by charging more for licenses and registrations. The tax on alcohol also is increasing. And sales tax will be applied on more items, including sweetened tea.

In addition, it will be easier to gamble throughout the state. Video poker machines now can be added in taverns, restaurants and truck stops. Also, betting will be permitted over the Internet on the state lottery.

Critics of this initiative are upset the state is using video gambling to lure more citizens to lose money during a time of high unemployment. Supporters say that towns and cities can choose to keep video gambling illegal in their jurisdictions.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Illinois in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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